A Large Pack of King-Sized Cigarettes.
“The moon is half here.”
Rat said aloud, his thumb pressing the record button on his audio device. His breath was visible, the city was getting colder.
“I feel… butterflies.”
Butterflies or illness he thought.
Rat was lying on his back facing the moon atop a building in the south-east quadrant of their city; the shipping docs. It wasn’t a very glamorous place and smelt of salt and dead fish, but Rat was high enough that his sense of smell wasn’t particularly affected. He had been given the location by Lamont as a gift of sorts and Rat believed him to be genuine. He was good at reading people’s levels of fear when they were to be exposed though he supposed that it was also due to the nature of exposure.
Rat made it seem like it was plain blackmail. A One time deal that seems like a photographer got lucky or something. No one except Rat’s partner who knew anything about what they were really doing.
There was a strange faint ringing noise that began to drown out Rat’s hearing. He had these moments many times a day and found them to be concerning at first, but soon grew to like the peace of the white noise.
His Partner thought it was a sign Rat’s body was falling victim to the drugs. He simply said: “If I was having that, I’d be scared man,”
He was eating an apple. It was red and crunched noisily in his mouth as he spoke and chewed in their base of operations,
“I’m serious, you’re fucking up your body and your mind. I know you don’t give a rats ass about your body, everyone knows that. But you give a shit about your brain so don’t go fucking yourself up.”
This was the first time the ringing was making Rat anxious. What if his partner was right?
Rat rolled over onto his stomach and assumed a prone position. His cameras were already set up, all he was doing was waiting, and he waited for what felt like hours. He chain-smoked cigarettes at this time and did several lines of blow as he was feeling more anxious than ever. Rat even drew in the little doodle book he kept in his bag for when he was feeling particularly bored. They were primitive drawings with a hint of minor artistic talent.
That night he had been drawing a simple little cartoon figure with big eyes and a simple skinny body. It was his favorite character to draw and he created many different outfits for the little character and drawing little quotations of him saying what Rat thought were wise words. The drawing finished with the character smoking a cigarette with tired eyes saying ‘don’t do drugs.’ Rat put the book away and removed the audio device from his pocket.
“Did you know this city’s original goods and services was fishing, mining, and forestry?” Rat licked his lips and rolled on his back.
“The raw material built us a little utopia real quick, it made sense right? We face the sea to the east, The mountains and mines to the west, and forestry all over right?”
He swallowed and looked mindlessly at the sky as if he were talking to a crowd.
“But then, we fucked ourselves. We out-mined the mines, polluted the water and killed the fish, but we always had the forest, a place to hide. The Forest seemed abundant but when there were no jobs for the miners and fishers that the city was founded upon, well, that went away pretty quick too.”
Rat railed a line quickly from the vial. He felt physically weak.
“Do you know what those men turned to when there were no jobs? No money?”
Rat lit a cigarette with a wheezy breath.
“They turned to crime and now this city that has survived on the brink of-”
Rat began to cough hysterically. He was genuinely struggling for a breath and kept trying to talk.
“On the brink-“
He rolled over onto his side and vomited a sick black bile away from his camera. He heaved heavily for breath and finally found it. He breathed deeply and slowly for a while half laying down. The ringing came again this time with an immense volume. He felt like he was still trying to say something. He felt his mouth moving but he couldn’t hear anything but the ringing.
He struggled to get on one knee and looked over towards the alley that Christian Lamont had given him. Rat froze solid. There were already cars pulling in and men getting out. In a haste, Rat rolled messily into position, he checked to make sure his video camera was recording and he could see the flashing light but there was the constant ringing in his ears. He grabbed his camera for pictures and snapped as many quick general photos he could. He saw that his shots were shit and he couldn’t damn hear.
There’s more in the vial he thought and with an urge, one of survival and purpose, Rat drained that vial of its substance and went to work. The evidence he gathered was vast and exposed a great deal of the city’s inner workings despite the shit shots, but he still could not stop the ringing noise.
Then he impulsively thought about Mary and her flight that left that morning, and the last look on her face which was smiling, he thought about how she would start a life with kids in a small town in the plains and that she would be ok.
Rat felt the liquid pour out of his nose and into his mouth. The thick iron taste of blood. It didn’t stop either.
Rat left the recording camera operating, but he put down the one he normally used for pictures as gently as he could as his hand fell to the ground. Rat took a big breath. He collapsed onto his back and blew out all his air into the stars above him. He lay there for the equivalent of two cigarettes listening to the ringing, feeling the blood pour down his cheeks. He blinked to make sure he was still alive. He undoubtedly was, but a large part of him felt gone like he could barely remember who he was. He only saw the moon, the giant crescent in the sky, prominently glowing through the clouds where the stars had not. Then he closed his eyes for the time of a large pack of king-sized cigarettes.
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